Episcopal Bishops Commit Care to Both Ends in Gay Divide

Episcopal leaders addressed a letter to the General Synod’s House of Bishops on Friday, expressing their efforts to keep unity in the church while recognizing the need of some dioceses for a new overseer.

Twenty-one bishops concluded a four-day closed meeting on Friday at Camp Allen in Texas following a New York meeting last week that concluded with no resolution on homosexuality. All the involved leaders expressed regret for not "adequately" responding to a 2004 document with recommendations for the Episcopal Church, USA, but affirmed their adherence to it to heal the division within the worldwide Anglican body.

"The Windsor Report properly belongs within the larger framework of Anglican teaching, as expressed, not least, in successive Lambeth Conferences, including the resolutions of Lambeth 1998 (among which is Resolution 1.10)," the letter stated. At Lambeth 1998 – the thirteenth decennial assembly of bishops of the Anglican Communion – it was decided, by a vote of 526-70, that "homosexual practice" was "incompatible with Scripture."

"We understand this to be the mind of the Communion for teaching and discipline," the letter added.

Some have criticized the 2004 Windsor Report for lacking clear direction over the issue of homosexuality. Anglican leaders of the Global South Primates who just concluded their meeting in Kigali, Rwanda said, "The Episcopal Church gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report" in a communiqué released Friday. They also noted that the Episcopal Church’s newly elected presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, holds a position on human sexuality that contradicts Lambeth 1.10 and the historic teaching of the Church.

Jefferts Schori, who will be formally installed on Nov. 4, had expressed her condoning of homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

The bishops who gathered in Texas, also referred to as "Windsor bishops" for supporting full compliance with the Windsor Report, have nevertheless expressed their endorsement of the report and recognized that many congregations in The Episcopal Church – the U.S. Anglican arm – need "a safe space within which to live out the integrity of their faith in compliance" with the report.

At the same time, the leaders also recognized the congregations that do not accept the provisions of the Windsor Report and the need of some for an alternative primatial relationship. The eighth conservative Episcopal diocese rejected the authority of Jefferts Schori on Sept. 16 and has asked for a new overseer who shares their traditional views.

Recognizing the conflicts in the church "does not weaken [their] fundamental theological and ecclesial commitments,” the bishops concluded.

"Rather, our unity has strengthened them, and for this we thank God."

Committed to caring for "all God's people" in the Episcopal dioceses, the bishops stressed their efforts of achieving unity in the midst of division.

The 21 leaders included bishops from the Anglican Communion Network such as its moderator, the Rt. Rev. Robert W. Duncan; Anglican bishops N.T. Wright of Durham and Michael Scott-Joynt of Winchester, who briefed them from the Archbishop of Canterbury; and other Windsor leaders.

Just as the U.S. Anglican bishops concluded their meeting, leaders of Global South Primates confirmed their support to the conservative leaders in North America, committing to the granting of Alternative Primatial Oversight and the formation of a separate orthodox Anglican body in the U.S.

Bishops will meet again at the global Primates meeting in February 2007.